Substance rules will strengthen fund management proposition

May 23, 2019

New Guidance Notes were published last month (26 April), designed to provide clarity around recently introduced ‘economic substance’ legislation in Jersey and how that legislation, which came into play in January this year, should be interpreted.

As the JFA acknowledged last month, the legislation was introduced to meet the requirements of the EU's Code of Conduct Group for Business Taxation around appropriate levels of substance for certain tax resident entities in Jersey, following an assessment by the EU that ultimately saw Jersey formally recognised as a cooperative jurisdiction.

With that in mind, these guidance notes are helpful, providing interpretations of how the law should be applied by Jersey-based fund managers, and highlighting what it means for service providers and fund structures – particularly in terms of reporting and the tests the law provides for around governance, income generating activities, and physical office and staff presence.

It’s sensible of course that fund managers will look at this guidance and assess the structures they have in place to make sure they can amply meet the necessary criteria.

However, although this legislation underlines unequivocally that Jersey is committed to best practice and international cooperation, it is also worth noting that, from a fund management perspective, it is further evidence of the direction of travel Jersey has been pursuing for some time and reflective of Jersey’s ongoing commitment to nurturing a substance-driven environment for fund managers.

It’s no coincidence that the number of fund promoters in Jersey has almost doubled in the last five years to more than 250, whilst Jersey has a community of more than 20 hedge fund managers – a figure that continues to rise.

Managers spanning the full range of asset classes and sizes have in recent years, for instance, been bulking out their operations in Jersey through staff and premises to the point that Jersey now has a significant on-the-ground management community, whilst we can also boast a considerable and growing infrastructure of experienced directors and risk management, administration and compliance experts.

Jersey has established a reputation as a centre for fund management precisely because it has long been a jurisdiction of substance with a regulatory environment that is internationally-recognised and that is already in tune with global thinking on substance.

Crucially, the new rules absolutely work with Jersey’s existing regime and the majority of fund managers will not perceive them as creating an additional layer. Jersey was, for instance, an early mover on the OECD’s BEPS project, which had a focus on substance, and in 2017 became only the third jurisdiction in the world to have completed domestic ratification of the BEPS agreement.

In addition, the significant work Jersey has done around the AIFMD over the past decade has positioned it well as a jurisdiction that is focused on supporting managers and giving them a solid platform for growth.

As a result, the new substance legislation should not come as a shock to managers operating in Jersey.

And if it is concluded that a manager needs to change its arrangements, the expertise is already readily available in Jersey to take on any extra work. Reporting is a case in point - in some instances, for example, older agreements might have delegated reporting arrangements to another entity in the group based outside Jersey. Under these new rules, reporting is a core income generating activity for a Jersey fund manager and if a manager concludes that it will be responsible for reporting as one of its core activities, reporting must be carried out by or on behalf of the manager in Jersey. Because the intellectual capital and capacity is in Jersey to service reporting functions, any change to the group's contractual framework to facilitate reporting from Jersey should be straightforward.

As a result, the expectation is that not only will managers here be able to meet the new criteria as set out by the new legislation, but that the new parameters will actually prove to be a natural next step that will further bolster Jersey’s appeal as a centre that is ready and willing to provide the perfect ecosystem for fund management activity.

The infrastructure is here, the connectivity is here, and the market access is here, and that should be a compelling proposition.